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Playbill Vault’s Today in Theatre History: July 15

1856 Birthday of prolific producer Charles Frohman who, often in collaboration with his brothers Daniel and Gustave, produces dozens of Broadway shows including Sherlock Holmes, The Czarina, Pasteur, The Texas Nightingale, and Zander the Great. In one busy stretch, September and October 1902, he opens 12 plays on Broadway.

1905 Birthday of lyricist and librettist Dorothy Fields, daughter of vaudeville star Lew Fields of Weber & Fields. Among her numerous credits over six decades from the 1920s to the 1970s: Blackbirds of 1928, Let’s Face It! (book), Annie Get Your Gun (book), Redhead (book and lyrics), Sweet Charity (lyrics), and Seesaw (lyrics). She is nominated for three Tony Awards and wins one, for her work on Redhead.

1937 Though it has been moribund for several years, Vaudeville is officially declared dead today, as Variety merges its “vaudeville” and “nite clubs” sections for the first time ever. The entertainment newspaper explains that “the vaudeville department has lately been particularly difficult to fill up.”

1949 Irving Berlin tries to recreate the success of Annie Get Your Gun by reassembling the creative team for a musical about the sculptor who created the Statue of Liberty. Despite direction by Moss Hart and choreography by Jerome Robbins, Miss Liberty runs a disappointing 308 performances, but produces a modest hit tune in “Let’s Take an Old-Fashioned Walk.”

1979 Future Tony Award winner Laura Benanti is born in New York. Her Broadway appearances include a Tony-winning performance as Louise in the 2008 revival of Gypsy, the original productions of the musicals The Wedding Singer and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and revivals of Into the Woods and She Loves Me.

1981 News stories around the world state that businessman and sometimes-theatrical producer Claus Von Bulow has been accused of attempting to murder his wife. Reads the Variety headline about the incident: “Von Bulow, B’way Angel, Accused of Attempting to Murder His Wife.” Von Bulow was a major investor in the Broadway productions of Deathtrap and Wings. Almost a decade later, Jeremy Irons wins an Academy Award for his portrayal of Von Bulow in Barbet Schroeder’s film based on the case, titled Reversal of Fortune.

1982 Nathan Lane makes his Broadway debut opposite George C. Scott in a revival of Noël Coward‘s Present Laughter. Also in the cast are future stars Christine Lahti, Kate Burton, and Dana Ivey.

1998 Trevor Nunn‘s staging of Henrik Ibsen‘s An Enemy of the People begins at Los Angeles’ Ahmanson Theatre. The Royal National Theatre production starring Ian McKellen tells the story of a Norwegian doctor’s attempt to expose a scandal in which the local baths are dangerously contaminated. The production’s script is a new version by Christopher Hampton.

2010 Harry Connick, Jr. In Concert on Broadway begins a limited 15-performance run at the Neil Simon Theatre. The evening highlights songs from Connick, Jr.’s album “Your Songs,” including “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Close to You,” “Who Can I Turn To?,” and “Smile.”

2012 Celeste Holm, a theatre and film actor who, through a small but select collection of indelible mid-20th century stage and cinema performances, achieved the somewhat legendary status in show business circles, dies at age 95. Perhaps best known for creating the role of Ado Annie in Oklahoma!, Holm appeared in over twenty Broadway productions including performances as Anna in The King and I, Mame in Mame, Evalina in Bloomer Girl, and Anna Christopherson in Anna Christie.

2015 The Encores! Off-Center staging of Andrew Lippa‘s The Wild Party, starring Sutton Foster and Steven Pasquale, begins performances at New York City Center. Lippa revises his musical for the occasion, including adding a new song for the character of Queenie (played by Foster), called “A Happy Ending.”

Today’s Birthdays: Joan Roberts 1918. Joanna Merlin 1931. Ken Kercheval 1935.

Watch Sutton Foster sing “A Happy Ending” in The Wild Party:

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